Let’s think about Corrie ten Boom, who gave sanctuary to Jews in her home during World War II. She was often asked by the authorities if she had Jews, and she said no. Ultimately, she was turned in and went to the concentration camps, where God worked many miracles for her (if you haven’t read THE HIDING PLACE, you really must.)
Rahab, who lied about hiding the Israelite spies, is included in God’s “hall of faith” in Hebrews 11. So, indirectly at least, God blessed her for her act.
When divine commands conflict, there are three ways we can try to resolve the conflict. First, deny the conflict. There are some folks (the “truthful Baptists,” if you’ve read THE TRUTH TELLER), who would refuse to lie, period. They would appeal to God to work a miracle or accept his sovereign will, should the worst happen. The example of Rahab and the Egyptian midwives, however, would seem to suggest that God can bless folks who choose another approach.
Second, you can admit that conflicts do exist because we live in a fallen world. Sometimes we have to choose between the lesser of two evils. Corrie Ten Boom should lie to the Nazis because it is a lesser evil than surrendering innocent people to be killed. After lying, Corrie should have asked God’s forgiveness for lying.
Third choice? Turn the argument on its head and recognize that a person has the obligation to do the greater good. Recognize that there is a hierarchy within God’s laws. For example, God’s command to preach the gospel is over his command to be in submission to the state. (Otherwise, we’d never preach in communist countries.) Jesus referred to the “weightier matters of the law (Matt. 23:23-24) and said that justice, mercy, and compassion are more important than the law of tithing, for instance.
(The above points and approach comes from MORAL CHOICES by Scott B. Rae, an excellent book. )
As for me, if I found myself in such a situation, I think I would pray and do as the Spirit led.
I’ve often wondered what I would have said were I at Columbine High School on that horriffic day. If asked if I believed in God, would I have been justified in lying and saying “No?” A lie might have saved my life . . . and did I owe truth to such an enemy? But those teenagers didn’t have time to think, and those who answered “yes” and were killed–think about how God has used their testimony.
So . . . I think all three options above are viable, depending upon how the Spirit leads you at the moment of crisis. Sometimes God wants us to uplift truth and trust Him for the result. Sometimes he may want us to choose between the evils of our fallen world. And sometimes he may want us to choose the greater good. Perhaps we cannot know until we arrive at that moment of choice.
I am confident of this–our sovereign God will use whatever we do to work his will. Scripture is filled with people who chose A, B, and C, and God worked through all of them: Stephen, who died because of his fervent testimony, Rahab, the Egyptian midwives, even Peter, who denied Christ but then learned so much through his personal humiliation.